Capacity Building

Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD,

Capacity building has fast become a major topic among nonprofits and management support organizations (funders, associations, training centers, consultants, etc.) that provide services to nonprofits. There are a variety of definitions for capacity building. Perhaps the most fundamental definition is “actions that improve nonprofit effectiveness” (from Investing in Capacity Building by Barbara Blumenthal, published by The Foundation Center). Some other discussions about capacity building refer to the concept as actions that enhance a nonprofit’s ability to work towards its mission.

The concept of capacity building in nonprofits is similar to the concept of organizational development, organizational effectiveness and/or organizational performance management in for-profits. Capacity building efforts can include a broad range of approaches, eg, granting operating funds, granting management development funds, providing training and development sessions, providing coaching, supporting collaboration with other nonprofits, etc. Prominent methods of organizational performance management in for-profits are beginning to be mentioned in discussions about capacity building, as well, for example, the Balanced Scorecard, principles of organizational change, cultural change, organizational learning, etc.

Information in this topic of the Library will acquaint you with the concept of capacity building in nonprofits, including offering you a broad background from some suggested previous readings, numerous perspectives on capacity building from numerous articles, and then review of various common functions in nonprofits (eg, boards, role of CEO, programs, marketing, fundraising, finances, evaluation, etc.). The topic closes with review of major methods of organizational performance management.


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